It all begun with the launching of renminbi futures by the Chicago Merchantile Exchange (CME) and A-share index futures by the Singapore Exchange. Mainland critics are saying that if these products flourish, their price will have a significant bearing on the as yet-unopened home market. Final say over the pricing of China's currency and leading stock index will wind up in foreigners' hands. Some academics even called the yuan futures part of 'a three-pronged conspiracy' by Washington to colonise the Chinese economy consisting of ending, launching renminbi derivatives and pressuring China to widen the yuan's trading band. They argue this will end in a major appreciation of the yuan that will seriously damage China's export-reliant economy and lead to an economic crisis akin to the deflation and economic slump that engulfed Japan in the 1990s. The debate has carried on in both mainland financial newspapers and the official Xinhua News Agency. You might assume, then, that Beijing is very upset with the CME. Far from it. In fact, the country's central bank knew from the very beginning about CME's plan to launch the product. Executives from the CME consulted People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange about the product, said CME's chief operating officer Phupinder Gill in an interview. 'We kept them informed of every detail,' he said. In June, CME got the best answer one can expect from Chinese officials - no indication of objection. 'We can't expect them to host a joint press conference with us like Korea's Ministry of Finance,' Mr Gill said. It's not hard to see why the central bank would welcome the CME move: An exchange-traded, offshore RMB futures market will provide more transparent information on pricing and trading than a domestic market operating behind China's wall of capital controls ever can. That, in turn, will help the government better gauge international sentiment, making it easier to manage its exchange rate. This is not the CME's first China deal. In March, it won a multi-year agreement under which Chinese financial institutions and investors will gain access to electronic trading of its foreign exchange and interest rate products. Mr Gill said the trading would begin next year once training for the mainlanders has been completed. This is the result of a patient and well-designed strategy, one that stands in sharp contrast to the one employed by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, the local stock exchange's parent. The Chicago exchange kicked off an Asia expansion plan a year after its public listing in 2002, and China is the cherry on the cake. While HKEx's China ties are concentrated in the hands of its ex-chairman, Charles Lee Yeh-kwong, CME engages much of its senior management in the effort, including its chairman emeritus, Leo Melamed, Mr Gill, who travels to China every month, and Asia Pacific managing director C.F. Wong, who spends half his time there. While the HKEx is focused on building ties with state leaders and potential listing candidates, the CME is making friends at all levels. It signed partnership agreements with all five mainland exchanges to provide information and training. It has a scholarship programme and has given library collections to the People's University of China where most mainland bankers and brokers are educated. It even provides training programmes for Chinese executives in Chicago. 'Understanding comes before business,' said Mr Gill. But it's not neglecting that side either: It will build a telecommunications hub in Shanghai next year that's meant to offer cost savings and help improve the efficiency of mainland customers. While the HKEx has little appetite for long-term investment and rejected the idea of RMB futures, the CME is patient. A traditional fiefdom of banks, RMB futures started slowly in Chicago, with daily trading volume of no more than 100 contracts since its launch in late August. 'It's a mid-to-long term investment ... as the RMB's trading band widens, the volume will pick up,' Mr Gill said, noting that its Euro futures contract took four years to become the world's most heavily-traded. Judging from its share performance, shareholders are happy with its strategy so far. It share price has rocketed by 10 times since its listing. On September 22, HKEx chairman Ronald Arculli asked 100 financial market participants to propose ways to improve its business in a week's time. This is part of a government initiative to bolster the city's financial industry. Instead of spending time reading those papers, Mr Arculli should perhaps take a good look at what the CME and other competitors have accomplished.